Hello again from northern Mozambique!
Whew! The pasts two months have been really full and busy since we wrote our last blog post in late January!
In addition to our usual day-to-day ministry activities, in February Alan continued working through the Train & Multiply series with the leaders in Chipembe on Tuesdays, and teaching through the scriptures with the small church in Nkororo and a new group of believers in Namwaciko on Thursdays, and Train & Multiply every other Saturday with church leaders here in town. Twice on the alternate Saturdays, Alan and Jeremy hosted a weekend-long leadership retreat for 20 church leaders in our province. The leadership retreats used ropes course-style activities and debriefing sessions to teach and discuss the unity that we have through the love of Christ. Too often being a leader in a church means bossing other people around and focusing on being in charge instead of leading through servant-love, listening, and working together. It was neat to see them grow deeper together as a team and build trust. We have several more leadership retreats planned throughout the rest of the year; we are excited to see what fruit will come out of these encounters.
Also in February the small group in Namwaciko that has been studying with Alan decided to become a church and near the end of the month had 4 baptisms. Believers from Montepuez city, Chipembe, Nekwaya, Khambiri, Nanhupo and Nkororo joined them to worship together. About 25 of us gathered to inaugurate this church. Alan talked about what it really means to be a church – being the body of Jesus and following his example through sharing the good news of the Kingdom of God, teaching about what it means to be a citizen of the Kingdom of God, and helping others through the power of the Kingdom of God. It was exciting to see this church plant rise up mostly out of the initiative of our Mozambican brothers. One Christian from the church in Khambiri had moved to Namwaciko and after a few weeks of living there said, “I miss worshiping with the church in Khambiri, but it is too far to walk… so, we should plant a church here in Namwaciko.”
Alan has also had two additional tasks on his plate these past few months, one being to complete his second practicum to finish his M.Div. degree through Harding Graduate School. The M.Div. is an 84-hour master’s degree; it will have taken Alan nine years to complete it since we left the States before he was finished! We are really excited that we have reached the end! Of course, we won’t be there for the graduation ceremony, but it sounds like they will let Alan’s dad accept his diploma for him on graduation day. This last class is a practicum that he has planned out one-on-one with his professor, and Alan has been focusing on witchcraft/divination aspect of Makua-Metto culture and its intersection with the folk Islam of this area. This has involved a lot of extra reading and extensive interviews with several people locally.
The other extra task Alan has been juggling lately is the beginning of a non-profit business and resource center, including working towards purchasing the land to house the project. The initial idea is to raise broilers from chicks, and the money taken in from the sale of those chickens will pay the salaries of the Mozambicans running the project, as well as the next round of chicks and feed, and also provide a profit of several hundred dollars a month (hopefully more if everything goes well). That profit money will be used to bless the community, through relief in times of crisis (hunger in drought, wheelchairs for our handicapped friends, mosquito nets during the rainy season), and to fund different development projects. One answer to prayer is that God has provided a very trustworthy Mozambican friend of ours to serve as the manager of the project. He is the pastor a local church in town, and has faithfully and honestly served as the manager of a wood-cutting business for years. Just as we were beginning to pray for someone who would be faithful and honest to fill this role, he lost his job due to the owner relocating the wood-cutting business. As we shared the vision for what we wanted to do, he took a cut in pay to be a part of it! His role is important as he will be handling all the day-to-day aspects of this project, and Alan will meet with him regularly for accountability and vision casting together.
We had also been looking and praying for a small plot of land to house the project, but a number of prospects that seemed good initially didn’t pan out. Then we spoke to the owner of a large piece of land about the size of two city blocks right in the middle of town – much bigger than we expected. The price is extremely reasonable for land of this size and it looks like it will work out to purchase this property. Praise God! We will keep you posted.
At the end of February we left Montepuez for the four-day drive down through Mozambique (it is such a LONG country!) to South Africa for the annual meeting of Good News for Africa, our legal organization within Mozambique. We really enjoyed the fellowship; some families we hadn’t seen in quite awhile! We also took the opportunity to put our truck in the shop and give it a good, thorough tune-up. Our truck hadn’t been back down to South Africa since we drove it up five years ago, and we feel really thankful to be able to get it worked on down there – it needed it! We were also able to purchase a new canopy, since the old one was busted. I am sure it is just our imagination, but the truck just looks like it feels better itself! =) We also took advantage of being all the way down there to take some family vacation time as well. South Africa is so beautiful and diverse; we stayed in two Unesco World Heritage Sites: the Drakensburg mountains and the Isimangaliso Wetlands, and we saw lots of amazing scenery and lots of wild animals! By the time we had our vacation and wrapped up the Missions Meeting and then got our truck out of the shop, though, we were really ready to not be living out of suitcases and to come home. As we were driving back up through Mozambique, our teammates the Smiths were a few days behind us, making the same trip home. The newly rebuilt gearbox in their truck was bad, however, and they broke down farther south in Mozambique after the first day of driving. God has been taking care of them; a man from the shop where our trucks were worked on came up from South Africa to bring a new gear box to put in their truck, and as I type they are driving the last few hours to reach Montepuez.
The Westerholm and Roland families are still on furlough/visits in the States, and we miss them a lot and look forward to their return, especially since we haven’t yet met baby Jane Westerholm, born at the beginning of February! In mid-May by brother and sister-in-law from Denver are coming to visit us, and we are so excited! This is their first trip to Africa. Shortly after their visit we will receive a group of seven missions interns from Harding University for six weeks, which will then be followed by a visit from my parents. So the next few months will be busy! We really enjoy having visitors from the States; the fellowship is so refreshing and rejuvenating for us since normally we are separated by so many miles. Our Mozambican friends are always excited for us to have visitors, too; relationships and connections are so important here, and they are so honored to get to meet people who come all this way for a visit!
As we close, we ask that you continue to pray for
• the purchase of this land and the beginning of the non-profit business and resource center. Thanks to all those who have already helped with start-up costs; if anyone is interested in helping, please contact us for more details! We will write again very soon to share specific needs.
• our teammates the Rolands and Westerholms in the States right now
• peace and wisdom in the next few busy months
• for the transformation of hearts that comes when people truly decide to enter into God’s Kingdom
With love in Christ,
Rachel, Alan, Abby, and Ellie Howell